Bob Gillen

the magic of storytelling

Month: August 2019

Using the Steadicam in Camera Work

In my new novel Off-Road teen Tessa Warren has a mentor in her filmmaking. Kelsey Graf was a friend and classmate of Tessa’s deceased brother Ryder. Together they made it through film school at NYU, and were about to start off on film careers when Ryder died in a tragic accident a few months after graduation.

Kelsey has promised to take Tessa under her wing in Ryder’s absence. Kelsey herself has been working in Los Angeles on several film shoots. Her primary function is PA (production assistant). She is also exploring learning to use the Steadicam rig in the hope of becoming a camera operator. Someone on set has been willing to mentor Kelsey. We’ll see down the road if she continues on this path.

The Steadicam rig can best be described as a camera stabilizer mount for motion picture cameras. The Steadicam was invented by Garrett Brown in 1975. The rig allows for an operator to maintain a smooth shot over all sorts of surfaces and terrain.

One of the most well-known Steadicam shots is a full five-minute continuous shot in the film Atonement, when the soldiers arrive at Dunkirk beach during an evacuation of Allied forces. The shot is a Steadicam operator’s dream. It requires physical strength, coordination, choreography, and much rehearsal.

I have been fortunate to interview two Steadicam operators in recent years for my filmmaking website. One was Will Demeritt. Here’s a link to the interview: https://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/will-demerritt/

Steadicam operator Will Demeritt

A year later I interviewed Jessica Lopez. Here’s her link: https://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/jessica-lopez/

Steadicam operator Jessica Lopez

The Red VW in “Off-Road”

Hey. How are you? It’s been another long gap in posting. Caregiving is falling into a routine now, and I’ve dealt with a minor health issue of my own. So…I’m back. My goal is to post weekly from here on out.

My new book, Off-Road, is ready for publication. I will be putting it up on Amazon Kindle next month. The story starts out with three teens – Tessa Warren, Eric Pyne, Lyndie Reed – the Film Crew. They’re filming an off-road race in the Mojave Desert. In September. Yup…blazing sun, heat, dirt, dust. And adventure. Lots of obstacles to them getting their film made. Some of them man-made.

Red VW desert racer from "Off-Road"
Red VW desert racer

A red VW beetle, modified for off-road racing, features in the race. It belongs to driver Jimmy Hassett, a friend of Eric Pyne’s father. Eric and Jimmy mount two GoPro action cameras on the VW to capture the race.

Interior of off-road VW racer

The VW racer features an interior reinforced with roll bars. A light bar across the roof – not needed in this particular race, which is a daytime event. Glass only in the front windshield. Spare tire mounted in the rear window shelf. Skid plates to protect the underbody.

My First Car

The red VW reminds me of my first car, a blue VW with a canvas sun roof. That was a fun car. I learned to drive stick on it. Along with one of my friends, I drove it from New York to Montreal on Christmas break one year. Parked it in Montreal the first night. It froze solid overnight. I had to have it towed and thawed out all day in a garage.

VW with canvas sunroof

My VW was a dream to maintain. Battery inside under the rear seat. I replaced a muffler. Put on new shocks. And me not a mechanic by any means. I still miss it.

Driving home from Montreal a few nights later, we drove south on the New York State Thruway. Lots of snow and slush. Huge trucks, most of them passing us. Cold. The heater barely worked. But the VW never quit.

I will alert you as soon as Off-Road is up on Amazon. And I would appreciate you sharing the info with others. Every mention helps. 

Thanks. See you next week.

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